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IC Should Scrutinize LTTE Use of Human Shield

Former Human Rights Commission Chairman and human rights activist Godfrey Gunathilake yesterday said the LTTE's use of human shield which was the primary cause of civilian suffering and loss of their lives received less attention from the international community.

Gunathilake was of the opinion that the issues regarding the LTTE's use of the human shield and the suicide bomber require the closest scrutiny by any institution or a person assessing the conduct of the last phases of the war.

He was giving evidence before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission which met for the second day at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Centre yesterday.

Gunathilake added that the LTTE having armed itself to fight a conventional war could use the weapon of approximately 250,000 people and prevent them from seeking refuge outside the war zone. The two weapons which the LTTE used - the suicide bomber and the human - put all the rules of war to the severest test.

Gunathilake said those concerned international agencies and the international community (IC) were appalled at the LTTE' s use of the human shield and made urgent appeals which received no response. Gunathilake queried how we should define the norms that should govern the conduct of any army faced with an enemy using these type of weapons.

"The issues of responsibility and culpability become much more complex in a situation where one party is using a large mass of people as a shield for their defence," he added.

He opined that their could have been greater international pressure on the LTTE. "It would be interesting to see how the UN Advisory panel appointed by the UN Secretary General deals with this issue which is unconventional." He said Human Rights activists should come to a fair assessment of the conduct of an army in an extreme situation.

He opined that the responsibility of groups and individuals abroad who directly financed the LTTE to acquire weapons and commit terrorist aggression should also be looked into when the issue of responsibility for the failure of the CFA is assesed.

Gunethilake added that the CFA was seriously flawed from its very inception.

He said the CFA entered into by the then Government and the LTTE makes no mention of how to commence negotiations on the core issues, the political settlement , disarmament and decommissioning.

Gunathilake said the information regarding the LTTE network is coming to light.

He stressed on the need of mechanism that can ensure systematic support from the international community to prevent a resurgence of the LTTE.

"We should redefine the responsibility of the international community and our relations with it and seek to strengthen the forms of international cooperation that can prevent a re-emergence of the conflict," he added. (Courtesy: Daily News)